Web’s “Glut of Smut” Blamed on Lax Enforcement of Obscenity Laws

Start from Scratch

Meanwhile, pro-family groups are lending their support in seeing that the Department has the information it needs to chase down those who violate current federal Internet obscenity statutes.

Bruce Taylor, chief counsel for the National Law Center for Children and Families, is familiar with much of what the pornography industry has peddled onto the Internet. On numerous occasions, he has worked with Congress and law enforcement to encourage them to limit the extreme excesses of the porn industry.

Taylor, a former trial attorney with the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, has seen the fruit resulting from eight years of no federal prosecution of adult obscenity — that being the period Bill Clinton was in the Oval Office. He notes that while Janet Reno was Clinton's attorney general, she “would only chase child-porn cases — and the porn industry knew it.” The result, according to the former federal prosecutor, is that “now the problem [of Internet obscenity] is so bad, you have rape, incest, bestiality, torture, and child porn all over the Internet for both adults and kids to see.”

Taylor's conclusion? “When you let the porn peddlers have their way, this is how low they'll go.” He now maintains that the DOJ's past focus on child porn only could actually be diverting attention away from the porn industry's many extreme and obscene adult sites on the web.

The Department of Justice stated in a recent press release that much of the problem in prosecuting adult obscenity cases is that the department had to “virtually start from scratch” in the endeavor. Monica Goodling from the DOJ's public affairs office noted in the press release that the DOJ recently expanded the role of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section by hiring more staff members and investigators.



And in June, the department held a symposium on obscenity outlining to a group of federal prosecutors from across the country its commitment and plans in this area. Another comprehensive training session on adult obscenity prosecutions is scheduled this month.

Still, many pro-family groups — including the American Family Association — are appalled by the new wave of incest and bestiality sites on the Internet. Many of those sites offer advertising banners and free pictures that actually show parents in incestuous activities with their children and women having sex with animals. Such websites blatantly challenge current federal law and encourage activity that is both detrimental and illegal.

Degrading to the Family

AFA's founder, Dr. Don Wildmon, is currently seeking an audience with Attorney General John Ashcroft to discuss with the nation's pro-family leaders making the prosecution of obscenity a higher priority in the DOJ. In a letter to Ashcroft, Wildmon recalls a meeting 16 months ago between the attorney general and those pro-family leaders at which Ashcroft agreed to make such prosecutions a priority.

“Yet to date there have been no prosecutions for Internet obscenity or, for that matter, any efforts that we can discern against the major violators of obscenity laws in this nation,” the letter reads. “We feel we deserve to know why obscenity prosecutions have not begun, when they will, and what we may expect from your efforts. We want to support you as you take on this important task.”

The letter acknowledges that the issue of terrorism must be given the highest priority in the DOJ right now, but suggests that perhaps a contingent of assistant U.S. attorneys could be assigned the task of obscenity prosecutions.

Pro-family advocates hope that long-time federal prosecutors will no longer ignore prosecuting Internet obscenity. Toward that end, Republican Congressman Chip Pickering of Mississippi is co-sponsoring a congressional resolution (House Concurrent Resolution 445) he hopes will further address the problem of past DOJ indifference to the problem. He offered his insight into the dilemma of illegal Internet obscenity.

“As a father and civic leader, I cannot stand for the abuse and complete disregard of federal obscenity laws in our country,” he says. “It is degrading to the institutions of the family and the standards communities desire to maintain.”

Putting the Porn Industry on Notice

Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, thinks Ashcroft's Justice Department is heading in the right direction. Pointing to the “technological problem in prosecuting Internet porn,” Sekulow believes the new FBI/DOJ state-of-the-art computer lab set to open in January will go a long way “in helping [trace and] prosecute terrorist and obscenity cases” alike.

Sekulow further mentioned there were currently “significant investigations under way,” pointing out that conservatives do not often understand the difficulty in putting together these type of prosecutions.

Taylor recalls when he was a DOJ prosecutor in the late 1980s, “everybody got the message that everyone had to follow existing obscenity laws.” Bruce believed that the federal government properly set the tone back then by vigorously prosecuting hard-core adult obscenity.

Pro-family groups are hopeful that Sekulow is right, that by beginning with some high-profile obscenity cases, the porn industry would be put on notice that the federal government means business. Attorney General Ashcroft has publicly commented on the subject, saying that “vigorous enforcement of federal statutes criminalizing the distribution of adult obscenity by US attorneys is critical.”

However, Ashcroft's commitment to prosecuting adult obscenity may seem suspect because he noted that prosecuting such cases were “thorny” in nature — thus making convictions, in his mind, more difficult.

The American public has clearer thoughts on this topic. A Wirthlin Worldwide survey for Morality in Media shows that eight out of ten Americans (81%) believe federal laws against Internet obscenity should be vigorously enforced. The study notes that an even higher percentage of women agree. Yet the reality is that more than 70% of Americans believe law enforcement is not doing its duty in enforcing the obscenity laws already on the books.

Morality in Media has set up a website — www.obscenitycrimes.org — through which individuals can report Internet sites they believe violate current obscenity laws.

Reports filed through the website are forwarded to those individuals' respective U.S. attorney's office, which is responsible for enforcing federal Internet obscenity laws.

Can such reports make a difference? Just last month, Michigan's State Attorney General Jennifer Granholm proved that immediate action against suspected violations of obscenity laws can be fruitful. She issued cease-and-desist orders to website billing companies that facilitated more than 104 suspected child-porn websites. Granholm's action demonstrates that immediate steps can also be taken against clearly prosecutable sites involving rape, incest, torture, and bestiality sites as well.

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(This article courtesy of Agape Press.)

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